Craig Fugate reflected his penchant for thoughtful and forward looking thinking April 22nd during his appearance before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in support of his nomination to be the next Administrator of FEMA. During the hearing he underscored that vision, talent and leadership is needed to create a stronger national, and not simply, federal capacity to meet obligations to the American people in times of crisis.
Craig also undertook a refreshing approach to the continuing debate of re-drawing organizational boxes and pulling FEMA from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as well as how we should measure national effectiveness and progress to dealing with emergencies and disasters. He was clear in his belief that FEMA should remain part of DHS. He was equally clear in noting that the nation simply doing better than Katrina is not anywhere close to good enough. In a time in our nation’s history where clarity of purpose and intention are both more important than ever, Craig provided both on the critical issues of how best to ready America for the inevitability of the next emergency or disaster.
There was much debate in the aftermath of Katrina about the importance of having skilled and experienced leadership in FEMA. Craig’s background and experience makes him an ideal choice. If confirmed, he will have both the responsibility and accountability for helping to lead and facilitate the transformation of both FEMA and the non-federal aspects of America’s emergency management system, into a comprehensive 21st Century approach. Congress owes accountability to the American people to make sure this goal is met. Congress also has a critical role in working with the President, Secretary Napolitano and Mr. Fugate to make sure that any impediments to success are eliminated. A place to begin may be by stopping further debate in Congress about whether FEMA should be removed from DHS. There is also merit with encouraging Members to not use Katrina as the benchmark to measure future FEMA’s progress, but instead to work with Secretary Napolitano, Craig and all relevant stakeholders to develop a comprehensive set of forward thinking and aggressive goals for our national emergency management system. There is greater potential for success by measuring progress towards where you WANT TO BE, and not by measuring it towards where you DON’T WANT TO BE.
President Obama assumed the mantles of the Presidency during a period of great instability. At home and abroad, America’s interests are threatened in a variety of ways. The President has made a very wise selection in Craig Fugate to lead FEMA. Hopefully the Senate will rapidly confirm Craig so he can add another dimension of stability to the broader Administration’s efforts to deal with the crisis of today, but also to be ready for the crisis of tomorrow.